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Can Chickens Eat Broccoli? [Ultimate Broccoli-Feeding Guide]

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Feeding vegetables to chickens has many benefits – they add variety to their diet, provide essential nutrients, and can save money on those pesky chicken feed bills!

But can chickens eat broccoli grown in your garden? What about leftover broccoli from your dinnertime prep? Or oven-cooked broccoli?

Let’s explore whether or not chickens can safely eat broccoli in various situations.

And if not – what do we recommend in its stead?

Can Chickens Eat Broccoli?

Yes! Chickens love eating cooked and raw broccoli. And this nutritious vegetable has many health benefits for backyard hens. However, broccoli shouldn’t make up a significant portion of your chicken’s diet. We love giving chickens plenty of chicken scraps, treats, and snacks. But – snacks should never make up more than ten percent of your chicken’s diet. (They need a fully-balanced diet – especially if they’re laying or molting.)

chopping and harvesting a large broccoli plant in the backyard garden
Can chickens eat broccoli? Yes! Not only can broccoli serve as part of your hen’s healthy diet, but broccoli is also a ton of fun for your chickens. Try dangling a large broccoli crown from a piece of string. You can hang it in their coop, in your backyard, or inside their chicken run. Or – get an oversized, jumbo suet feeder from your local Tractor Supply or farm supply store. Stuff the suet feeder with broccoli, asparagus, bananas, and chopped carrots. A goodie-stuffed suet feeder keeps your chickens entertained for hours. And they’ll cluck in excitement when you offer them the yummy surprise! It’s also a delight for you and your family to watch. Everyone wins!

Is Broccoli Healthy for Chickens? – Here Are the Facts!

Most of the Outdoor Happens homesteaders love feeding broccoli to their chickens! And all gardeners know that broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables we can eat. Broccoli is also a famous superfood! But do these same health benefits also apply to chickens?

Let’s look at the facts!

While there have been numerous studies into the nutritional value of broccoli when it comes to our dinner plates, it is unknown if the same benefits extend to our hens. However, many experts believe broccoli can be a healthy addition to your chicken’s diet.

The American Poultry Association (APA) lists broccoli as a valuable source of nutrition for chickens, stating that it is “an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and it also provides folate and dietary fiber.”

Let’s take a quick peek at why these nutrients are so vital for our hens:

  • Vitamin A – is essential for healthy tissue growth, egg laying, and maintenance of skin cells.
  • Vitamin C – is a potent antioxidant that supports the immune system and protects against signs of stress.
  • Folate – promotes good body growth and feathering.
  • Dietary fiber – helps to maintain healthy gut function and probiotic balance.
feeding vegetable clippings to hungry backyard chickens
Our chickens love eating broccoli! And broccoli is a safe and healthy snack for them. However, there are some foods your chickens must never eat! These include caffeine, chocolates, candy, avocado pits, nightshade family members like pepper plants and tomato leaves, green potato peels, overly fatty foods, tobacco, alcohol, overly-salty foods, or raw uncooked green beans. (Our neighbors have also asked us about apples. Apples are fine for chickens. But – try to remove the apple seeds. They contain trace amounts of cyanide. However, we confess our chickens have eaten a few apple seeds without ill effects. Still, we advise cutting the apple seeds out first. Better safe than sorry.)

Can Chickens Eat Broccoli Every Day?

If you’ve ever watched the natural foraging behavior of chickens, you’ll notice that they vary in what they eat throughout the day. They (seemingly) instinctively know what to eat and when – for example, our free-ranging laying hens always feast on grass and herbs for an hour before bed but prefer high-protein feeds such as bugs and insects earlier in the day.

However, in a more enclosed space, such as a chicken coop with reduced natural foraging opportunities, we must provide a balanced diet to our hens.

In a commercial setting, one study indicated that broccoli could (potentially) make up to 12% of the daily food intake, but this is part of a highly regulated poultry feed aimed at maximum productivity.

For our backyard chickens, it is better to err on the side of caution and limit the amount of broccoli we give our hens.

The main reason for limiting broccoli in chicken diets, while broccoli contains plenty of vitamins, it is low in other vital components such as fats and calcium.

Broccoli is also a low-calorie food, so it will satisfy your chicken’s hunger but not provide enough energy for them to thrive. Broccoli is a great wholesome treat for humans who may need to lose a few pounds, but I’ve never come across a hen (yet) that needs to go onto a weight loss program!

The primary basis for your chickens’ daily food intake should be a balanced pelleted feed or mix of grains, which will provide all the energy and nutrients they need.

In addition to premium chicken feed, you can feed kitchen scraps and garden waste, but keep an eye on the quantities involved.

As a rule of thumb, half a cup of vegetables per hen per day is sufficient, along with no more than a small handful of calorific snacks such as cooked pasta.

Exceeding these amounts may mean your hens shun their regular feed, leading to an imbalanced diet and nutrition-related health problems.

chicken foraging in the vegetable garden looking for a snack
It’s perfectly safe for your chickens to have broccoli daily. But not just broccoli! We remind you that your chickens also need balanced chicken feed! A balanced chicken feed contains the nutrients that chicks and laying or molting hens need to survive and thrive. That said, we admit that chicken feed is also dull. It’s much easier to raise motivated, happy chickens if you entertain them with the occasional handful of sunflower seeds or suet cage stuffed with fresh veggies.

Is Broccoli Poisonous to Chickens?

Broccoli is not (exactly) poisonous to chickens. But if fed in large quantities, it may severely disrupt metabolic processes in your hens, leading to several health issues.

The reason for potential broccoli chicken problems is a compound in broccoli called goitrogens. Other vegetables which contain goitrogenic agents include cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnip, soybean, flax, and rapeseed.

Eating an excessive amount of vegetables that contain goitrogens impairs the ability of the thyroid glands to produce thyroxine.

In chickens, reduced production of thyroxine leads to symptoms such as reduced immunity, lethargy, skin and feather problems, and reduced egg production.

So, while a little broccoli treat is a good thing, it is clear that feeding too much broccoli to your hens could cause some serious problems!

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02/16/2024 12:42 pm GMT

Real Broccoli Chicken Studies – and Their Results

In the commercial chicken industry, scientists are becoming increasingly aware that broccoli could be a valuable source of nutrition. Various studies have occurred in recent years with some fascinating results.

  • A group of researchers concluded that feeding broccoli stem and leaf meal (byproducts from the human food industry) improved antioxidant levels in broiler chickens. Antioxidants can help to maintain heart health and protect against heart failure.
  • Researchers at the University of California found that feeding broccoli meals to laying hens increased the nutritional value and egg yolk color.
  • A Canadian study revealed that dried broccoli florets improved the growth of broiler chickens.
  • And finally, this Chinese study highlighted the reduced bacterial load in hens fed fermented broccoli, helping to maintain healthy digestion.

So, it seems that broccoli can do no wrong!! Or can it?!?! Let’s take a look at the potential hazards of feeding chickens broccoli.

How Do You Serve Broccoli to Chickens?

OK, so how do we feed this cruciferous superfood to our hens? The first thing to do is calculate the right quantities for your flock based on the recommended guidelines. Remember that serving too much broccoli can be as detrimental as feeding none whatsoever.

The recommended guidelines are to feed no more than half a cup of vegetables per hen per day. Half a cup of fresh broccoli weighs around three ounces or approximately 90 grams. But if you add other vegetables, you must reduce the amount accordingly.

The next question you need to ask is whether to feed it cooked or raw. There are pros and cons to both methods. So let’s take a more in-depth look!

Can Chickens Eat Raw Broccoli?

Chickens can and will eat raw broccoli, although not all hens like it. Uncooked broccoli is quite chewy. So it is better to chop it into smaller pieces first. Most hens will wolf down bite-size pieces of broccoli. But will not go to the effort of pulling apart larger pieces.

I’ve tried feeding our chickens raw broccoli florets, and they pick off the tiny buds and leave the rest. Chucking the excess broccoli seems like wasting this nutritious food source! So I always chop up raw broccoli before the hens get a taste.

(I give them the pieces they like. I chuck the rest in a garden veggie stir-fry. Everyone wins.)

Are Broccoli Leaves Safe for Chickens?

One part of the broccoli plant that hens will happily tear apart is the leaves! So, now is the time to stop putting these leafy greens on the compost pile. And start viewing them as a tasty and healthy treat for chickens.

Broccoli leaves are nutritious for chickens and have abundant beneficial vitamins and minerals. They will happily eat them raw. But they can get cooked too.

small vegetable garden growing broccoli spinach and carrots with a chicken in the background
We’ve had friendly discussions with neighbors, our local vet, and homesteading friends about how many snacks chickens should eat. Most in our circle agree that a backyard chicken’s diet can contain ten to fifteen percent yummy treats. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy snack! We also believe that offering snacks like fresh fruit, carrot tops, and cracked corn can reduce the odds of your chickens foraging – and potentially eating a toxic plant. (Jimsonweed and Crotalaria, for example, are safe-looking plants that can poison your birds. We feel better giving them healthy chicken treats known to be safe!)

Can Chickens Eat Cooked Broccoli?

Chickens can eat broccoli, raw or cooked. And there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

As raw broccoli can be tremendously chewy, cooking is a wise way to make it softer and increasingly palatable for your hens. When my chickens eat cooked broccoli florets, they eat the whole thing without any need to chop it up first.

However, when cooking broccoli, some of the nutrients can be lost. Boiled broccoli contains up to 50% less vitamin C than raw broccoli, which makes it far less nutritious for your hens.

Luckily, there are two solutions to this problem. The first option is to steam the broccoli rather than boil it, as this reduces the number of vitamins lost to just 15%.

(And yes, I confess! I am famous among my homesteading partners for feeding my hens lightly steamed broccoli – nothing is too much trouble for my lovely girls!)

The other option is also my preferred one. It’s to boil the broccoli in the same pan as some rice. The rice will absorb the cooking water, which contains some essential vitamins leached from the broccoli. You then have a pan of delicious food to keep your chickens healthy! (If you have some leftovers, no worries. Add a small dash of butter and enjoy some for yourself. But don’t give the chickens excess salt and butter!)

Top tip for chicken keepers – this technique also works well with any safe vegetables for chickens! I often save up vegetable trimmings from the kitchen and cook them with a cup of rice for our hens. Nearly anything can get chucked in – pea pods, carrot peel, cabbage leaves, and beet leaves. And, of course, broccoli!

Can Chickens Eat Broccoli Stalks?

The stalks of broccoli plants are one of the most underutilized parts of the plant. Not many homesteaders enjoy eating broccoli stalks. But they make perfect chicken food.

Most chickens will struggle to eat a large chunk of raw broccoli stalk. They can be unfashionably chewy. However, your hens should happily gorge on this nutritious treat. Just ensure it gets cut into bite-size pieces.

If your chickens are not keen on raw broccoli stalks, try cooking them instead. Cooked broccoli stalks make the stalks softer, sweeter, and likely more palatable for your hens.

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Can Chickens Eat Dehydrated Broccoli?

Growing broccoli can be frustrating for any homesteader, as it all tends to be ready to eat at once! Harvesting a home-grown broccoli head is a rewarding feeling. But the novelty soon wears off when you find several broccoli heads ready to harvest and eat daily.

If you’ve got a glut of broccoli in the garden or have come home with a massive haul from the farmer’s market, you’ll want to utilize as much of this superfood as possible. So, is dehydrating it the best answer?

The idea of dehydrating surplus vegetables for chickens is rapidly rising in popularity with chicken keepers. They are perfect to supplement your hen’s diet when other food sources are scarce. Dehydrated broccoli stalks and leaves are a popular and tasty ingredient in many commercial chicken feeds!

However, before dehydrating vast amounts of broccoli for your hens, ensure they will eat it by doing a small tester sample. If they wolf down these tasty treats, then get cracking on a bigger broccoli batch. You’re going to need a bigger pot!

Before dehydrating broccoli, cut the stalks and heads into smaller florets and blanch first. Around 12-15 hours in a dehydrator should be sufficient to dry them perfectly. Store dehydrated broccoli in a moisture-proof container in a cool, dark place, and check it regularly for signs of mold or deterioration.

hungry chickens eagerly waiting for lunch or fresh vegetable scraps
Here you see some backyard hens lining up and waiting for lunch. These birds get to forage in the backyard for a few hours in the late morning to early afternoon. They know the drill. And they’re hungry and eager for a yummy treat – perhaps a handful of cracked corn, oats, diced tomatoes, fresh cauliflower, broccoli, chopped kale, or lettuce. (Lunchtime is their favorite part of the day. We can’t blame them. We’re the same way!)

Can You Grow Broccoli for Chickens?

As the cost of chicken feed continues to rise, many homesteaders are looking for alternative food sources for hens. If you’ve got the space in your plot, growing a few extra broccoli plants can provide a regular supply of treats for chickens.

The great thing about growing broccoli for chickens is that they will eat all the parts we don’t! They enjoy the leaves and stems. And they will relish any florets you can spare for them. I often go around the garden picking off the lower leaves from my broccoli plants as a favorite treat for my girls.

But what type of broccoli is best to grow for chickens? Well, hens are not all that fussy, so gourmet varieties such as tender stem broccoli, sprouting broccoli, or broccoli raab are probably wasted on them. However, if you like to grow these delicious cruciferous vegetables, your hens will love any healthy treats you can offer.

For animal feed, I tend to opt for fast-growing, high-yield varieties that will produce a large head of broccoli with minimal effort – Waltham 29 is always a good choice for zones 9 & 10, while De Cicco is less likely to bolt in warmer climates.

professional photoshoot with a farmer wicker baskets and hungry chicken
Here’s more proof that chickens love eating broccoli. It’s a professional photoshoot featuring a farmer, wicker picnic baskets, and a chicken. Unfortunately, the chicken wasn’t interested in posing for a photo. Instead, the chicken only wanted the wicker picnic basket stuffed with fresh produce and healthy food! It eagerly pounced on the broccoli and lettuce that was supposed to be a prop. It looks like we’ll need more broccoli. Quickly! (And we need a better chicken model. This one isn’t cooperating!)

Conclusion

Thanks for reading our guide about chickens eating broccoli.

To summarize – our chickens love broccoli! We bet yours will, as well.

But remember not to overdo it. A few nutritional snacks are healthy for your birds. But, they also need a fully-balanced chicken feed. Their chicken feed is the best way to ensure they can get all their daily nutrients.

(Molting chickens and laying chickens especially need specialized diets stuffed with protein and calcium!)

We thank you again for reading.

Have a great day!

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